Cotton is making a comeback in the Rio Grande Valley in 2017, spurred in part by new cotton technology.
“One can never tell how our row crop season will turn out, but at this point we’re expecting an increase in cotton acreage in the Valley, and we’ll have some new cotton varieties and at least one new herbicide in the mix,” says Brad Cowan, Texas A&M AgriLife Extension Service agent for Hidalgo County.
Those predictions and many other items of interest to growers will be discussed at the 23rd annual Cotton and Grain Pre-Plant Conference to be held from 8 a.m. until 2 p.m. Jan. 17 at the Events Center of the Rio Grande Valley Livestock Showgrounds, 898 N. Texas Ave., Mercedes.
The event will also serve as the annual membership meeting of the Cotton and Grain Producers of the Lower Rio Grande Valley.
“Reasons for an increase in Valley cotton acreage will likely involve a combination of things,” Cowan says “This includes commodity prices for alternatives to cotton, like grain sorghum, corn, soybeans and others, are expected to remain low. And growers here are encouraged by the high cotton yields most had in 2016.”
The U.S. cotton crop should also see an increase in acreage in 2017, according to Dr. John Robinson, AgriLife Extension cotton economist in College Station.
COTTON AREAGE INCREASING
“I expect U.S. cotton acreage to increase year-over-year by 1.5 to 2 million acres, mainly due to the higher relative price of cotton compared to feed grains or wheat,” he says. “Having said that, cotton prices are still not really profitable, just relatively better than grain alternatives. So, folks growing cotton next year will still have to watch costs and market very nimbly.”
Rio Grande Valley growers planted about 133,000 acres of cotton in 2016, and are expected to plant as many as 180,000 acres in 2017, Cowan says.
“Improved cotton varieties, the success of the boll weevil eradication program and good moisture levels contributed to last year’s success.”
But 2017 may not see the soil moisture and rainfall 2016 did.
“We missed our usual September rains,” Cowan says. “That’s our rainy season, but it just didn’t happen. And it’s been slow ever since. At this point we need to receive more precipitation for all our crops to reach their maximum yield potentials.”
Without expectations of higher market prices for cotton, corn or grains, growers depend on maximizing yields to offset low prices.
Another highlight of the discussions at the Jan. 17 meet will be new developments in Mexico’s boll weevil eradication program.
“Because insects know no borders, Mexico’s boll weevil infestations tend to affect our cotton production, despite our best efforts to control them here,” Cowan says. “But this year we’ve got some news to share about new funding sources for control in Mexico, and increased successes there, which benefit Valley cotton growers.”
The February and March cotton planting window in the Valley is followed by focus on weed control to reduce competition for nutrition and moisture. This year, growers will have new technologies to help them in that battle.
NEW VARIETIES COMING
“We’ve got some new cotton varieties with embedded technologies to protect them from herbicides,” Cowan said. “And we’ve got one new herbicide labeled for use this year and another expecting approval soon.”
New herbicide-resistant cotton varieties are important because growers in some states are reporting resistance to herbicides used on Round-Up Ready cotton, he says. And the new herbicides are said to reduce the chances of drift damage to nearby crops, including vegetables.
“We’ll be discussing the absolute importance of the proper use of herbicides as well as the attributes of the new cotton varieties,” Cowan says. “They are important and beneficial tools to help growers increase profits and maximize yields to the benefit of agriculture, our economy and consumers in general.”
Source: Southwest Farm Press
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